Toronto Maple Leafs Will Make Second Round

It's The Maple Leafs' Year To Get Past First Round

First round exit after first round exit. There isn't a Toronto entity with more failed relationships than the Leafs and the NHL playoffs. Well...except for maybe Drake.

But this time — for real — is Toronto's year. They will get past the first round. 

The Leafs' first-round opponent this year is none other than the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stanley Cup champions from 2020 and 2021, and then Stanley Cup Finalists from 2022. How can a team that hasn't made it past the first round since 2004 eliminate a team that has been to three straight finals?

This isn't the same Tampa side.


Tampa Bay Slide-ning

In the Bolts' last 10 games to close out the season, they went 4-6 SU allowing the 10th-most goals (22) during 5-on-5 play.

On the season, Tampa is middle-of-the-table for defense with 252 goals conceded. In the three years where Tampa made the Cup Finals, they finished the year 10th, sixth, and sixth, respectively, for defense.

Former Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy has looked particularly poor of late. In his last two starts, he's allowed 10 goals against — 10! — including four against these same Toronto Maple Leafs.


With a struggling defense and Vasilevskiy not himself lately, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a massive dent in their playoff credentials. They're sliding and ripe for the picking. 

Toronto Rising

On the other hand, Toronto has been at its best lately. In their last 10 games, the Leafs have gone 7-1-2 SU with a +12 goal differential. Oddly enough, the only loss came at the hands of the non-playoff-bound Detroit Red Wings. But they did manage to best the Panthers, Lightning, and Rangers in their last three games.

The big question for the Leafs this season was goaltending, and IIya Samsonov has answered. His 0.919 SV% and 2.33 GAA on the year are right where the former first-round pick should be at this stage of his career. Over his last five games, the former Washington Capitals goalie holds a glistening 0.959 SV% and has stopped 141 of 147 shots for a 1.20 GAA.

The Time Is Right

Both sides are headed in different directions. The Leafs have been dominant on home ice all season (27-8-6 SU), setting the perfect stage for them to get out of the first round and to the second round for the first time in almost two decades.

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